Mercedes-Benz is trying out a new type of exterior car light in the United States. CNN reports that the German automaker has received approval to use turquoise-colored indicators in its head and tail lights to show when one of its vehicles is in self-driving mode — an intriguing new experiment in trying to figure out a place for self-driving vehicles on the roads.
Mercedes's self-driving mode is called "Drive Pilot," and is the first of any self-driving systems to be certified as SAE Level 3, meaning that when it's enabled, drivers don't have to continuously keep their eyes on the road. They can even go fully hands off and take their feet off the pedals, but must take over when prompted. For now, Drive Pilot only enables this level of autonomy when cruising under 40 miles per hour.
Despite those limitations, Mercedes is still speeding past its competitors like Tesla, whose Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems, both SAE Level 2, require drivers to stay alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times (a safety guardrail that the automaker's enthusiasts proudly devise ways of getting around).
Now with a first-of-its-kind car light to herald its self-driving innovations, Mercedes is seemingly having it easier with US regulators while Tesla and General Motor's robotaxi division Cruise have incurred only further scrutiny over the safety of their systems.
So far, the turquoise self-driving lights have been approved in California and Nevada, which are also the only states to have certified Drive Pilot.
According to Car and Driver, California is letting Mercedes trial the lights in test vehicles for two years, starting in early 2024. Turquoise indicators will be embedded in these vehicles' headlights, tail lights, and side mirrors.
Meanwhile, Nevada has already approved the lights for use in two of Mercedes' production model vehicles: its 2026 EQS and S-class sedans.
The distinctive color, a lighter hue of blue, was chosen because it won't be mistaken for police lights or regular lights on a car. Mercedes said its use is meant to help ease drivers into sharing the road with self-driving vehicles.
It will also help anyone passing these cars, cops included, not be alarmed when they see the person behind the steering wheel with their hands off and their eyes off the road.
Who's to say that these turquoise lights won't be the cool new way of brandishing that you're driving a very advanced car? Of course, if you're skeptical of the technology, you can very helpfully use the flashy indicators to stay clear of these vehicles — so perhaps it's a win for everyone involved.
More on self-driving cars: Tesla Driver Forced to Pay After Killing Two People on Autopilot
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